<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Ben Kingsley, John Turturro, Sigourney Weaver, Aaron Paul, Indira Varma, Maria Valverde
If you know the story of Moses then you don’t have to watch this film. If you don’t know about the story then go watch the original The Ten Commandments.
It looks all nice and grand in the promo and having Ridley Scott at the helm with Christian Bale as the lead are definitely big crowd pullers. But Exodus (I’m not going to keep adding the ‘Gods and Kings’ bit since it seems superfluous) is just an adaptation of the original story of Moses and The Ten Commandments done in a very bullet point way.
Exodus starts off without even showing the origins of Moses being sent down a river as a baby by his sister Miriam and being found by the Pharaoh’s sister Bithiah and adopted as her own. It just starts off with grown up Moses (Christian Bale) and his cousin Ramses (Joel Edgerton) going into battle where Moses saves Ramses’s life. The Pharoah Seti (John Turturro) is grateful and loves Moses more than Ramses. Ramses is jealous. And in no time Moses learns of his origins – that he’s actually a Hebrew and not an Egyptian and must lead his people out of slavery – and so does Ramses who then exiles him. Clearly the filmmakers didn’t want to waste any time establishing the bond between brothers and their falling out.
Very conveniently Moses finds a girl who is his wife in less than 10 minutes of screen time meeting her and immediately after their wedding it’s 9 years later! Oh my God! They’re fast-forwarding the damn film so they can just get to the big CGI ‘plague of locusts’ bit. And this inspite of having over two and a half hours of running time! Reprehensible and blasphemous in my opinion.
And what a let down it is when Moses meets God. There’s no emotion or grandeur. It’s just a little kid with a British accent that apparently is God’s messenger. He wreaks havoc on the Egyptians and the Hebrews with rivers of blood (and crocodiles!), skin infections and flies as well as swarms of locusts. Through this, Ramses remains immovable. In both resolve as well as emotion. He’s just like, “So high priestess, how long with it take to make the river not bloody anymore?” There’s no sense of urgency or reaction. Moses looks on at first awed and then he says, “Are you done?” to God. You’d think it’s trying to be funny but the film takes itself way too seriously. It doesn’t matter that they’ve thrown in a couple of actors with Brit accents to sound jolly and add some humour.
Sigourney Weaver as Ramses’s mother is so totally wasted in the role that Ridley Scott should be ashamed. He of all people knows her talents since he directed her in the Alien movie. And he’s done Gladiator too which had such strong female characters. Christian Bale is no Charlton Heston and is outclassed by the heavy CGI scenes. And I think Tom Hardy would have made a much better Ramses than Joel Edgerton whose man make-up and dull dialogue delivery make him look like a wax figure of a she-male from Thailand. Don’t get me wrong he looks hot though!
It’s a pity they packed off John Turturro early on and even Ben Kingsley is made to just be sombre but fails to add any gravitas.
One of the only moments you’ll smile in the film is when Moses is about to have sex with his wife Sefira (Maria Valverde). They ask each other three deep questions about eternal love and then get down to it by saying, “Proceed”!!
There’s no grand presentation of the Commandments by Moses nor is there anything that leaves you feeling that you’ve watched a story of biblical proportions. Sure we’re so used to end-of-the-world films now that we’re not easily surprised but that’s where you need to make things more epic. While you are interested enough in what’s on screen you wince at how summarily some of the material has been dealt with.
Exodus: Gods and Kings is a vacuous film that serves no purpose whatsoever. You’d be much better off watching the original The Ten Commandments than wasting time on this movie. But I supposed you’d still go and watch it. After, go watch the original and see how far we haven’t come in the way we tell stories.
PS: There’s a lot written about how Ridley Scott could only end up using white actors for the parts that could have gone to Arab or African actors. Read the article Ridley Scott Addresses ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ Race Controversy here.